At the beginning of February, I started writing my first sequel novel, tentatively titled "The Returning," which carries on the story of my forthcoming first novel "The Worker Prince." An epic space opera series, the books tell the story of Davi Rhii, born a slave but raised a Prince, who helps his native people of birth win their freedom and full citizenship in the Borali Alliance.
Whereas the first book is a space opera coming of age story set against political intrigue and a revolution, the second book is more of a thriller/mystery with forces rising to try and upset the balance and restore the Alliance to its pre-revolution state with Rhii and his people enslaved again.
It's an interesting experience to revisit a milieu you know so well. On the one hand, I feel very comfortable writing these characters and much world building is already in place. On the other, I felt the need to start with a multi-chapter outline through Chapter 5. While I reserve the right to change the outline as I go along, and I have, the desire to connect the story and capture the feel of the first novel compelled me to do more planning than usual.
It's interesting to work within the parameters I've already set forth with a different type of story. On the one hand, banter between characters is fun and easy to write, and I am finding it easy to just drop in the back story in little chunks in trying to avoid the common mistake of sequels known as the info dump (I was criticized for this some on my first novel and endeavored to fix what I could). On the other hand, because I know it so well, I have no idea how much is too little or too much, and I find myself seeking beta readers who have not read the first book to better guage their sense of frustration at knowing too little or desire to know more and when. So far, the betas have not even mentioned this, so I may be doing okay, although I have asked them to write questions which occur to them and where in order to give me an idea if there are pressing questions readers need answered at certain points along the way.
While it took me a bit to get back into the swing of things, so to speak, it's delightful to write these characters knowing them so well because I can actually enjoy the scene as it unfolds almost like a reader would, much more so than the first time around. Of course, when I run into a new character that's a bit different, but so far it's mostly been the old regulars. I have dealt with mostly new settings however, and that allows me to introduce some new technologies (i.e. gadgets) and other ideas to build the world further. In some ways I think introducing new settings with familiar characters will make it easier for the reader. It provides them with familiar guides to lead them into the new parts, which keeps them still feeling like they're with old friends rather than disjointed and on totally unfamiliar ground.
I also notice how my craft has evolved. Although I will still need many drafts to polish, I am adding more detail in this first draft than I did in the past and setting up story arcs, inner monologues, etc. much better. So far the beta reader who wrote back to me said "I'm not bored" implying he was intrigued and it challenged him to give notes as a result. I'll call that a good sign that the book is on track.
Interestingly, I just finalized the contract on Book 1 at long last and will probably sign it officially this week. So we are off and running with a projected publication date in late Summer. Next week, I go to Rainforest Writer's Village from Wednesday through Saturday to do nothing but write, so I hope to get two chapters done there. Since I just wrapped chapter 3 today and plan to do another before I travel, that would put me at seven, around half way. Exciting stuff. What have your experiences with sequels been like?